Less depression in boys who play video games

Dr. Karen Zoufal | 02/19/2021

Boys who regularly play video games by the age of 11 are less likely to show signs of depression three years later. Girls who spend more time on social media, on the other hand, appear to be more likely to develop depressive symptoms. This is the result of a new study published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

The research team had previously found that long periods of sitting in adolescents can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. They then investigated how screen time affects the psyche. There were differences: eleven-year-old boys who played video games most days had 24 percent fewer depressive symptoms three years later than boys who played video games less than once a month. This effect was only clearly noticeable in boys with little physical activity and was not observed in girls. The researchers therefore assume that less physically active boys could have more fun and social interaction through video games.

Girls who used social media most days by the age of eleven had 13 percent more depressive symptoms three years later than those who did so less than once a month. We don’t know why, but frequent use of these media may increase the feeling of social isolation. The researchers also believe that mentally active screen time, such as playing video games or working on the computer, may not affect the risk of depression as much as passive use does.

“While we can’t say for sure whether video games actually improve mental health, in our study at least it didn’t seem harmful and could have some benefits. Video games are an important social platform for young people, especially during the pandemic. We need to reduce the amount of time we sit for the sake of health, but that doesn’t mean that the use of screens is inherently harmful, ”says Aaron Kandola of University College London.

What: DOI 10.1017/S0033291721000258

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